“The Moon was the most spectacularly beautiful desert you could ever imagine. Unspoilt. Untouched. It had a vibrancy about it and the contrast between it and the black sky was so vivid, it just made this impression of excitement and wonder.”
– Charles Duke
“I can’t believe you went to Transcendi!” Zoey whines as I sit in the electronics room, “I thought we agreed on Epicuri.”
“It’s not so bad.” I admit, at least, I like how peaceful the forest seems.
“You’re kidding, right?” She sighs, “So, a Lunar party? Think there will be drugs?”
“I don’t know, how would I know? Here,” I open a browser and search lunar party, “It’s just an all-night party.”
“You know,” Zoey drawls, moving on, “My grandmother lived on the moon. She went with the third pioneer expedition.”
“Yes, you’ve told me this.” I remind her, standing, “I should go get dressed.”
“Why don’t you have your screen in your bedroom?” Zoey shakes her head, “Those Transcendi are savages. I tell you, it’s not going to be long before you’re begging me to bribe my mother so she’ll transfer you.”
“I will, never, do that. You’re free to come to the party if you want,” I send her the address code, “Bye.”
“Bye then.” She sighs as the screen flickers off. I leave the room. There is a sense of peace with not having to keep the call going. I walk into my new bedroom and search for clothes. I find another closet filled with folded clothing that people had either stocked or left behind. Searching through them, I find a silky blue dress with a ruffled hem. Pulling it on, I cover my shoulders with a violet shawl and decide that now I need to find make-up. Plain is fine and good, but I like my designs.
After considerable searching through every shelf and drawer, box and nook, I find a small make-up kit that someone must have forgotten about and left behind. The pigments were still good and the oils easy to mix as I prepped the hand-crafted brushes. Setting up by an oval mirror that sat in the corner of the main room, I paint my face with a brilliant design of curls and spirals, like a blue fern got tangled in my flesh. I had specks of white for a sparkle effect. It seems Lunar enough to me.
There are no shoes, anywhere, except for the violet flats I came with. I choose to go barefoot.
Ara hadn’t been kidding when he said prepare for visitors. The sun was setting and the entire place was crawling with people – mostly self-proclaimed neighbors, but there were some visitors from the city as well. The swarm of people move in and out from the homes, laughing and being just as spread out amongst the trees as they were the buildings. Most of them wore silkened robes with gems adorning their necks, wrists, foreheads and ankles.
My dress fit right in, but my make-up did not. Not everyone was plain-faced, but the make-up that they did wear was gentle and muted. The vibrant style of the cities in A-Utili were drastically different. The design on my face marked me as a citizen from there and I received more than one comment as I walked around the fountain, surveying the crowds.
“Avery!” Through the trees, Zoey bounds towards me. She wibbles and wobbles on her platform shoes, the metallic sheen of her eight-piece suit reflecting the brightening moonlight. Behind her, I recognize her older brother. He must have chaperoned, being at least twice our age and is dressed neatly in a classic two-piece with checkered patterns. His piercings garner a bit of attention as some of the Transcendi citizens pointed and exclaimed joyously at the aesthetic.
“How charming!” A wispy blonde points at him, “Like mirrors in your ears!”
Zoey comes and hugs me, which is odd and I wonder if I’ve become upgraded as a friend because I’m now a citizen of a different nation. Returning the hug out of politeness, I clear my throat.
“You’ve met Isaac, right?” She asks, holding my arms and looking over my dress with a critical gaze, “It’s simple.” She says in a sad tone.
“Oh, uhm, yeah, it’s all I have.” I pause, then ask, “If you could ship some clothing over, that you don’t want or anything, that’d be great?”
“Right,” Zoey nods.
“Happy day, Avery.” Isaac leans forward, showing his palm and smiling. I frown at him slightly, shaking my head and returning my attention to Zoey.
“I actually have been wanting to make room.” My friend admits, then glances around. Taking my hand, she leads us away from the others – though Isaac lingers a few paces away, barely in hearing range. Zoey liked having her room, there was no doubt in my mind that she was paying Isaac to keep his distance, “I only have so much room in my own suitcase.” She sighs, “So,” Lowering her voice, she glances around before pulling me closer, “are you really living with all of these strangers?”
I shake my head, “No, no. They came for the party.”
“Phew,” Zoey nodded, “So, is the whole place yours then?”
“Oh no, not that either.” I pull at my ear, glancing over my shoulder to see Isaac lingering, “I have one neighbor, he lives next door.”
“Ooo, he?” Zoey smile coyly, “Hmm?” She raises her eyebrows.
“No, Zoey,” I shake my head, “Not that.”
She shrugs, “Well, you’ll have to point him out, see what we’re working with.”
I’m sure when she sees Mason, she won’t be interested anymore.
The party dwindled at sunrise, but a number of visitors remained in the area – sleeping in the unclaimed homes and a few prepared breakfast for the rest, setting it out on folding tables for free access. I had gone through a whirlwind of introductions after returning to the party with Zoey. Now, I sit on a flat stone by the fountain, watching my friend walk away to return to her hovercraft.
Isaac, however, is coming back. He heads right to me and sits down nearby.
“Shouldn’t you be going?” I ask, confused.
He shakes his head, “I need to talk with you first. I meant to grab you last night, but you and Zo were having so much fun.” Scratching the back of his neck, he carefully chews at his lower lip, avoiding the two hoop piercings in his lips. The style is called viper. From time to time, I consider getting the same piercing myself.
“Okay.” I smile, since he seems nervous for some reason, “What’s up?”
“I need you to hold onto something for me.” Reaching inside a pocket, he brings out a locked metal box that is about the size of his hand. He hands it to me and I accept it, if only because he seemed ready to shove it onto me if I didn’t.
“What is it?” The metal is cold against my skin and I examine the lock. It is a combination, digital lock, but there is also a small, archaic lock built onto the back. Two locks? “Whatever it is, it must be important.” I add, thoughtlessly.
“It is.” Isaac nods, moving my hand so that I hug the box to my chest, “Don’t try to open it though. Keep it safe, I’ll be back for it in the next week or so.” He stands.
“Wait,” I clutch the box tightly, “Why?” He starts walking away, so I stand, “Hey!” I call, “Am I going to get in trouble for this?”
Isaac waves, “I’ll see you soon, kid.” The non-answer bothers me, but I let him go. Looking down at the box, I figure I’ll find a spot to hide it and not think about it until he comes back for whatever is inside.
“Are they from your home nation?” Ara startles me, coming from around the fountain. He still holds his walking stick, wearing the same clothes I met him in.
“Yes.” I nod, quickly moving the box so that it is partially hidden behind my leg, “I invited them to the party.”
Ara nods in return, “Wonderful. Have you met Yona yet?” If he notices the box, he doesn’t ask about it.
“I think so.” I recall the muscular woman with dreadlocks that had introduced herself with the name. At the thought, I look around and locate the same woman cutting apples at one of the fold-out tables, “Her, right?”
“Yes, that’s Yona, alright.” Ara leans against his walking stick, “If you ever need to request some kind of food, I suggest you get a hold of her. She gets a real kick out of helping with things like that.” He points to a muscular man beside Yona, “And that there is her flame, Wawack. He can help you out with medicine if you get any ailments. Also, he runs a great meditation group if you’re interested.”
“Meditation group?” I wonder if it is anything like A-Utili’s meditation courses available at the Utili Institutes, “How much is enrollment?”
Ara looks at me as if I’ve turned into a giant insect. He, then, laughs loud enough that both Yona and Wawack look, “We do not interact with monetary requirements here.”
“So, it’s free?” I don’t understand why the question was so funny to him.
“That is the consequence, I suppose, from where you are coming from.” Ara smiles, placing a hand on my shoulder, “You’ll learn more every day you are here with us.”
I sigh, “Sure.” With the touch, I feel exhausted, “I’m going to bed.” I announce.
“Don’t you want to eat first?” Ara removes his hand.
“No, no, I’ll eat when I get up.” I take a couple steps back towards my home.
“Rest well, then. We’ll clean up before we leave, most – if not all – of us will be gone by the time you wake, but you can always consult the address book if you need anything, from any of us.”
“Thanks, you’re really helpful.” I admit, smiling and turning away. Quickly, I hurry to my bedroom and shut the door behind me. It is quiet and empty inside the room. I take a deep breath, then disrobe. Placing the metal box under my pillow, I will find a place to hide it when I wake.
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